Day's End

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Day's End


What Are You Up To?


The sun's rays filter through a stand of black spruce where 20 horses, each loaded with 150 pounds of gear, are hitched. Dave, a lanky outfitter, and I are unpacking them. We chat about the grizzly sow and cubs spotted earlier in the day, about how the horses are holding up, about the people on the trip.

men's talk
the smell of
sweat and manure

As we struggle with the ropes, Dave asks, "Ray, what are you up to these days?"

I think of telling him that since I've retired, I'm embarrassed to receive a monthly check without having to work. That I no longer wake up by an alarm clock, my mornings unfolding slowly. That I feel guilty about those who have to set their alarms, rush breakfast, fight traffic. During the day I write and when the light is right, I grab my camera, wake the dog and go for a walk. I exchange e-mail with writers, meet pals for lunch, and visit my lover. I do a daily workout, experiment with cooking, and chair a committee to enhance my city's park system. I view most of these activities as luxuries in a world stressed by war and poverty.

Finally I say: "Well, I write and do some photography."

Dave replies, "Oh, is that right. Do you sell your photographs?"

"Some, but not enough to pay for the film."

So, there it is. I can't simply sit on the back stoop and admire the lawn growing, the shadows lengthening.

"Well," Dave grunts as he hefts a 150-pound load off the horse, "must be nice to have time to pursue your interests."

Yes, how many times have I heard, "Now you have time to become the poet you always wanted to be?"

We slide back into easy chitchat. The horses don't like being tied and corralled, and I don't either. In earlier times I was "a young man doing edge sports," "a professional," "a dad," "a leader" and "a teacher." Now I'm "a retiree" which carries undertones of "geezer," hints of "useless."

We release the horses and follow them as they race out the gate. They kick up their heels, roll in the black loam, shake it off and begin to graze. I wish that the rawness I feel could as easily be shaken off, that the wildflower meadow could be entered so easily.

monkshood bloom
the whine of mosquitoes
seems diminished


R. Rasmussen, Lynx, 2007. The second haiku was published originally in Modern Haiku; haibun published in Lynx.